“Winds in the east, mist coming in. Like something is brewing and about to begin. Can’t put my finger on what lies in store, but I fear what’s to happen all happened before.”
One of my favorite words in English is home. It’s such a tiny word—only four little letters and one small syllable. Yet it conveys a multitude of meaning. Home is the house or apartment you return to each night. It’s where your family lives. But it’s also the town in which you grew up, the city where you attended university, the far-flung place you’d never heard of, but ended up spending years of your life inhabiting. It’s the place you’ve wept both for joy and for sadness. It’s a place you’ve loved, and hated. A place you’ve ached to leave, only later to ache to return.
And for me personally it’s a word that recalls so many places. I think of strawberry fields in Santa Maria; of foggy, chilly winter days along central California’s coast; of Santa Clara’s beautiful campus where I learned so much; I think of Paris and the metro line I had to take every day between home and class—line 6, from which, if you know exactly where to look and when, you can see both the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. I also think of Ukraine—the thunderstorms that used to break summer’s suffocating heat, and my host family’s kitchen where I spoke my first Ukrainian words. I love the word “home,” because with one short utterance, you experience so much emotion and recall so much of your life.
In the last few months, I’ve gotten to live again in one of my homes: California. Every time I return, I’m reminded of the beauty of this place. When you’re here too long you forget how beautiful it is. However, if you leave and then return months or years later, you understand why people have been drawn to this place for centuries. The beauty of California’s endless deserts; of her lush, fecund farmland; of her romantic beaches; of her pointed mountains in the north, and her rolling, green hills along the coast makes it the most beautiful place on earth.
Yet this time, returning home wasn’t all beauty. Coming back to California from the Peace Corps was a challenge. I spent about a quarter of my time in California living out of a suitcase, crashing in this house or that apartment (I have the most generous friends). I had four jobs in nine months. I learned what it’s like to work multiple jobs, earn minimum wage, and barely make rent. I learned that being lonely isn’t a feeling reserved for Volunteers in far off places, but for people too busy and exhausted with work to keep up with friends. Yet for every down there was an up. I got to see people I hadn’t seen since college graduation three years ago. I was reminded of what year-round warm weather is like. I had people to hug me, listen to me, and tell me not to take life so seriously only a few minutes drive away, as opposed to a walk, bus, and train ride’s journey from me.
And this is why it’s going to be hard to leave again. That’s right. It’s time for your favorite nomad to wander away again. This time though, I’m meandering back to a place I already know and love. I’m going back to another home. Au revoir Californie…Bonjour France! Yep, that’s right, it’s back to France I go.
This school year I’ll be living in France, not as a student, but as a teacher. I’m employed by the French education system to work at a high school in Troyes, 150 kilometers east of Paris. I’ll work as an English Language Teaching Assistant, coordinating with the many English teachers who work at Lycée Edouard Herriot, a high school with the student body population of about 1000.
So here I go again. Wandering again. Exploring again. Learning again. I’m excited to leave for France. Excited to call it home again. French is actually one of the reasons I so value the word “home” in the first place—the word doesn’t exist in French the same way it does in English. As you travel and learn new languages, you encounter words or phrases that are simply untranslatable. “Home” is one of those words. Of course, we have the word house in French: maison. There’s even a phrase that translates as “my place:” chez moi. Yet, “home” as we experience it in English doesn’t really translate. It makes me value the word all the more.
And so as I leave this Californian home of mine, I hold in my heart that word and all its many meanings: the comfort, the smiles, the community, the love. I’ll keep that encouragement with me in my heart as I move along. For although I’ve taken on the adventure of moving abroad before, each adventure has been vastly different. Each time it has been a challenge. There are always difficulties and trials. However, it all works out in the end. And this time, as always, I suspect I’ll have discovered a new place to love and call home.